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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 July, 2005, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Embassy row over folk group visas
Macedonian folk dance group
Embassy officials say the group were quite happy to perform
A row has erupted after a folk group were made to perform outside the British Embassy in Macedonia before they were allowed to go to the Llangollen International Eisteddfod.

Officials wanted to "prove they were dancers" because they lacked documents.

Some of the group say they were refused visas but the Foreign Office said their claims were "a gross exaggeration".

The eisteddfod - one of the world's largest festivals of song and dance - got under way in Llangollen on Tuesday.

Dance troupe member Dolce Delchev said the group had applied for visas at the embassy in Skopje, which is the capital of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. He said they had applied last Thursday, three days before they were due to travel, but they were told they did not have correct documentation.

It was at this stage that the Foreign Office officials decided it would take too long to interview each member individually, so the group was asked to perform in the car park at the back of the embassy building.

It seems to me there has been some petty politicking going on here rather than real concerns about them being asylum seekers trying to get into the country
Eisteddfod Chief Executive Gwyn Williams

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "I understand they were quite happy to do this and they performed for about a minute.

"But although the group had asked for 41 visas, only 35 were granted and the spokeswoman said the group then decided not to travel.

"To suggest that we stopped them from coming is a gross exaggeration," she said.

But the group insists the applications were refused.

Members now plan to stage a protest performance in front of TV cameras outside the embassy at the same time they were due to compete on the eisteddfod stage.

Eisteddfod Chief Executive Gwyn L Williams said: "It seems to me there has been some petty politicking going on here rather than real concerns about them being asylum seekers trying to get into the country."

The Llangollen International Eisteddfod is a world-renowned festival of music, song and dance with around 3,000 performers from more than 50 countries.

Up to 80,000 people are expected at the six-day festival, which was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

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